Drop the Tuba to Avoid the Boneyard

In another exchange between lawmakers and the Pentagon over the future of the A-10, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) proposed a unique way to solve the program’s purported airmen shortage. “We have got hundreds of people that are playing the tuba and the clarinet wearing the uniform as opposed to [performing] core military capabilities,” she told Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. “If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun.” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had a heated back-and-forth after Welsh said earlier in March that the service doesn’t have enough airmen to continue operating A-10 and KC-135 fleets and stand up a new squadron of F-35s. McSally and McCain have argued plans to send A-10s to the boneyard and replace them with F-35s do not account for the A-10s’ superior close air support capabilities. Dunford told McSally the lawmakers’ inquiries prompted discussion amongst the Joint Chiefs. “We’re looking carefully at the platforms that are being introduced, what capability gaps will exist, how do we mitigate those gaps,” he said. “So, I can tell you that the interest of Congress has generated quite a bit of interest inside of the department.”